Project Based Learning (or PBL) is an inquiry-based process for teaching and learning. Some people think it is doing projects all the time. It is NOT. In PBL, teachers start new content by having students focus on a complex question or problem then research and discuss the answer and then seek to solve the problem through authentic experiences.
Students are encouraged to collaborate and communicate with other students in order to make them better at articulating what they are learning. These sometimes culminate in a project but they are better described as experiences that teachers design to help students learn at a deeper level. PBL is extremely effective as a method for engaging students in their learning and has “Eight Essential Elements” or instructional strategies: 1) a challenging problem or question; 2) sustained inquiry; 3) authenticity; 4) student voice and choice; 5) reflection; 6) critique and revision; 7) key knowledge, understanding, and success skills; 8) and a sharing opportunity.
Students and adults can learn things at a surface level or at a deeper level. Surface level learning requires memorizing facts for a test that are often forgotten a few days later. The goal in LCPS is for kids to have deeper learning experiences.
Deeper learning can be explained when using some of the eight elements to ask about what is happening in our teachers’ classrooms. How is instruction being driven by a challenging problem or question? What is the teacher doing to stoke curiosity, sustain inquiry, or engage and empower the students? What actions are going on in the room that demonstrates lesson and activity authenticity? What are the students doing that demonstrate voice and choice? What are the kids doing to reflect, revise, and critique their learning?
In designing their lessons to get students to deeper learning experiences, teachers provide students with a chance to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems by using highly empowering and authentic lessons on a daily basis. PBL encourages a shift from a teacher-centric model to a student-centric, learner-driven approach. Along the way, they are continually critiquing, reflecting, redirecting, and revising their question(s) and answer(s). Along the way, they are making deeper connections with the content.